Thunder Rolls Against Struggling Jazz

Sunday, March 30th 2014, 6:11 pm
By: News 9

With a pivotal week in the Western Conference playoff race on the horizon, there was concern that Oklahoma City might sleepwalk into Sunday's game against the struggling Utah Jazz.

The Thunder put that concern to rest and wasted little time doing it.

Oklahoma City used a dominant first-quarter to set the tone, coasting to a business-as-usual 116-96 victory against the Jazz.

After the game, Nick Collison said this team has worked harder to eliminate those slip-ups and oversights.

"I was really happy with how we played. We came out and were ready to go from the jump. That's some of the consistency that we've been lacking," Collison said. "We want to be concerned with our level of play, not who we're playing or what the score is."

And Oklahoma City did exactly that.

How dominant was the first quarter? OKC held Utah to its worst scoring output in the first quarter all season with nine points. It was the second-worst quarter for the Jazz this year, after Utah managed just eight against Boston in November.

Oklahoma City (54-19) raced out to an 11-0 lead before eventually taking the quarter 26-9. It matched the fewest points allowed by OKC in any quarter this season and Utah's made basket with 19 seconds left saved it from the lowest point total (7) from any team in the NBA this year.

The Thunder's defense slipped from that point forward, but the offense didn't, as OKC led by as many as 28 points in the contest.

Kevin Durant was exceptional once again, finishing with a game-high 31 points on 9-of-13 shooting despite sitting out the entire fourth quarter. KD also finished with nine assists and four rebounds in 29 minutes.

Durant kept his impressive streak of game with 25-or-more points alive, extending to 38 games on Sunday. He needs three more to pass Michael Jordan in the history books. MJ had 40-straight from 1986-87.

Russell Westbrook also had a strong outing in limited minutes, with 19 points on 5-of-11 shooting with five rebounds and four assists. He was also 9-for-9 from the foul line and played 25 minutes.

Serge Ibaka chipped in a well-rounded performance with 17 points, six rebounds and four blocks, while Steven Adams had a stout showing on the interior, as well, with eight points and eight rebounds.

Caron Butler had his best game in a Thunder uniform so far with 15 points on 5-of-5 shooting from the 3-point line.

And Butler wasn't the only Thunder player who had it going from behind the arc.

As a team, OKC shot 11-of-18 (61 percent) from 3-point range.

The Thunder shot 55.4 percent from the floor overall and was 23-of-26 from the free-throw line, as Oklahoma City improved to 31-7 at The Peake this season.

The Jazz shot 41.9 percent and struggled considerably from distance with 28.6 percent shooting from 3-point territory. Enes Kanter led Utah with 18 points and 12 rebounds, while Richard Jefferson tacked on 17 points – 15 of which came in the second quarter.

With the loss, Utah remains in the Western Conference cellar with a 23-51 record and is just 2-15 in its past 17 games.

After cruising to back-to-back double-digit wins, the level of competition takes a major step up for the Thunder in a crucial week for playoff seeding. The Thunder starts things off with a home contest against first-place San Antonio at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Chesapeake Energy Arena before back-to-back road games against Houston and Phoenix.

The Spurs (57-16) are three games up on the Thunder for first place in the West and is on an NBA-best 17-game winning streak.